Dreams and Aspirations: Why having a goal can be good for your mental health

By Olly Halton

Before I went to University, all I knew is that I wanted to be a writer.

Ever since I was a small child, I would write endless stories about aliens, vampires, zombies and werewolves until I could no longer take it and my overactive imagination said to me: “Hey, instead of being the weird kid that always seems ‘away with the fairies,’ why don’t you actually see if you’re any good at this gig?”

So I started thinking bigger, taking on longer short stories and even attempting near-enough thirty novel ideas. I passed a notebook of short stories to my year eight English teacher and later used creative writing as my skill for Duke of Edinburgh bronze award. Or, at least, I would have if I hadn’t bailed on account of being quite possibly the worst sportsman in existence.

But the art of creative writing, now that was an element far harder to shake. So I pursued it a year ahead of my peers at A-Level and as I sit here writing this, have just completed a three-year degree course in the subject at Winchester University.

The exciting opportunities before me await – chances of journalism and authorship. I’ve written tons of articles for a Uni-based magazine and one of my teachers recently recommended a short story of mine for publication in the magazine Shoreline of Infinity, saying he had never seen anything quite like it. Sure, I won’t be performing any life-saving surgery anytime soon (if I made it to a Doctorate level that is), but my dream does stand me a chance of a name in the history books and quite frankly, that’s good enough for me.

The truth is, why not. If you can dream a dream, then you can make that your reality. Once upon a time, we had a dream of touching the clouds so the Wright brothers made the airplane and we had a dream of long-range communication so Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Alas, yes, writing Sci-Fi and fantasy novels for children is hardly of the same labour to be considered among these greats. But the most famous female author in existence was told by her family to think realistically about getting a real job and would only return to writing as an escape from a dire poverty situation where she could barely afford to feed her daughter. Said woman is now the richest author alive and was once falsely reported to be the first billionaire from book-writing: J.K. Rowling.

Going for your dream also benefits your mental health. It makes you feel like you’ve crossed that hurdle that has always alluded you and if you achieve it, you have a reason to have a little party. So why not take the jump, dive in and test the waters. The worst that you can get is a ‘no’, in which case feel free to ignore that ‘no’ and try again. The dreams of our sleep are meant to stay as dreams, but your goals are perfectly attainable.

The last 18 months has been difficult for us all and sometimes it can feel like getting through each day is a struggle let alone thinking about the future, however as Olly has shown in his piece, it’s good to have goals and aspirations. They can help to ground us and help us out of a hole by having a focus. Sometimes this involves being vulnerable and taking a leap of faith, but if you don’t try, you will never know.

If you are feeling stuck and need some help, why not talk to one of our counsellors from The Lighthouse counselling Partnership (TLCP)

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